A lot of emphasis is put on “How to Be A Good Loser.” So much so though that sometimes it may often be at the expense of taking time to learn/teach how to be a good winner.
As I sit here mulling this post over, I’ve been stuck in this internal debate: Which is more important: Knowing how to be a good Winner or a good Loser?
Of course knowing how to win and winning is a whole lot more fun. No question. But when it comes to interacting with the people around us, I really can’t nail down which one is more important to master.
While a sore loser can ruin a game night by tossing the table, being moody, or just generally making everyone miserable; a poor winner can equally dampen the event by putting people down, taking trash talking a few levels too far, or by making everyone else feel worthless or stupid.
So I’ll leave that debate to you – you can let me know in the comments what you think. Instead, I’m just going to focus in on 3 ways to be a good winner.
(P.S. In case you missed it, this is a companion post to How to be a Good Loser. You can check that out by clicking on the image below.)
1. Good Winners Read the Table
Don’t stop let this skill stop with strategic decision, but let it bleed into reading the emotions at the table as well. Of course when you trounce your friends in a friendly game of Carcassonne, there is apt to be some dejection. Especially if someone kept getting their high scoring cities stolen from them throughout the game. Read that emotion carefully and know that it may not be best to jump up on the table and dance after you win. 🙂
Maybe you have a group of friends where trash talk is the norm and it’s not fun for anyone unless there is a healthy dose of it. Just understand this: that group is not every group. Become skilled at reading the table.
(A quick side note before I move on: I am not a fan of losing on purpose because someone else at the table is having a bad night. In my opinion that rarely turns out well. First, assuming we are talking about someone older than 8, by handing them the win you are enabling the behavior of “Pout and I get to win.” Second, if it comes out that you threw the match, it can come across a worse offence than being a bad winner because essentially you have just “cheapened” their win.)
2. Good Winners Acknowledge the Skill of Their Opponents
I’m a bit of a NFL football fan. I don’t think there is really any place where you can see poor sportsmanship vs good sportsmanship displayed more clearly than professional sports.
One of the things I love seeing at the end of a close football game, especially during the playoffs, is the middle of the field handshakes. For some, these are formalities. Things that are expected, things to just do for the cameras, get over with, and then get to the locker room as quickly as possible.
The players that I respect are the ones from the winning team who grab one of the other players, and pull them aside and talk to them above the roar of the crowd. You don’t know what they are saying, but they talk for 15, maybe 30 seconds. I have to believe that they are acknowledging some of the tough plays that player made during the game. (At least I hope it’s that and not making plans for a Burger King run after the parking lot empties out.)
Bringing this back to board games, this doesn’t mean you need to have a tête-à-tête with each player after the game, but acknowledging the good plays that other people made, or how they challenged you in a specific portion of the game shows that you value them as people and as gamers.
3. Good Winners Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice
This is probably one of the easiest traps of winning to fall into. You won the game, possibly by a large margin, and you just want to help your poor helpless friends out in their next game.
Of course the key here is “unsolicited.” If someone asks for advice, feel free to help them out. But otherwise, keep your advice to yourself.
Even though it’s coming from a good place when you say:
“Hey, would you like some tips for next time, or do you want to explore the strategies on your own?”
it’s probably being heard as:
“Hey, are you too stupid to figure this out?”
There’s a good chance that the person you just crushed into the dirt doesn’t want to hear your opinions on what they did wrong. Instead – refer to points 1 & 2 and pull out the next game of the evening.
Remember – “It’s Just a Game”
Recently on social media I was involved in a good discussion about the term “It’s just a game.” The discussion revolved around how that argument has often been used to justify a lot of gross and disgusting themes in board games. It’s a great topic to be hashed out and I may broach that topic on Art of Boardgaming sometime in the future, but that’s not what I’m referencing here.
In the context of winning and losing, I believe that the phrase “It’s just a game” is very valid – and true.
When you’re sitting around the table having a great time with friends, family, or just random people that you’ve met for the first time – it’s not really about the game. It’s about the human experience. It’s about the people around you.
The experience of the game will just last a few minutes, or a few hours. The way people view you – good, bad or ugly – will last much, much longer.
Your reaction when you win or lose will speak volumes more about your character than your score ever will.
Have you had an experience with a “Bad Winner?”
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